The Beginning of Autumn: East Versus West

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Exploring Solar Terms: ‘The Autumn Equinox’ (Sept. 23 to Oct. 7)

A solar term is a period of about two weeks and is based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each of the year’s 24 solar terms, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.

Solar Term: Autumn Equinox

2022 Dates: Sept. 23 to Oct. 7

“Autumn Equinox” is the 16th solar term of the year and the day when the sun crosses the celestial equator, heading southward, creating one of only two days in the year (the other being the spring equinox) when day and night are the same length. In 2022, the autumnal equinox falls on Sept. 23.

In the Western astronomical calendar, the equinox marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, while marking the end of winter and the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Chinese calendar, autumn is considered to start earlier and is already half over by the time of the autumn equinox. In this calendar, autumn began on Aug. 7 this year. There are 46 days between when ancient Chinese people and Western people define the first day of autumn. Each year, there might be one or two days of variation, depending on the sun and Earth’s movements, but it’s roughly the same every year.

The Spring and Autumn Annals, also known as Chunqiu, is an ancient Chinese chronicle that has been one of the core Chinese classics since ancient times. The Annals cover a 241-year period from 722 B.C. to 481 B.C. It’s the earliest surviving Chinese historical text to be arranged in an annals format. It was traditionally regarded as having been compiled by Confucius and was included as one of the Five Classics of Chinese literature.

The Annals recount how, for ancient Chinese, the beginning of autumn was the time when the gods of autumn were ready to descend to earth, so the Chinese people worshipped to heaven and went to the west to welcome them. Those gods would finally arrive on Earth on the autumn equinox, and the ancient Chinese would welcome them with a ceremony in the center of the capital city.

This was one of two such major ceremonies that emperors in ancient China held each year in the worship of the divine. The one in spring was to pray for a prosperous year to come and for mild weather; the one in autumn was to thank heaven and the gods for a good harvest. If the harvest was poor that year, the fall ceremony was used as an opportunity for the Chinese to offer repentance.

From the day of the autumn equinox, the balance between yin and yang energy starts to shift dramatically, with the warm yang energy fading rapidly. Normally, lightning and thunder should have ceased by this time, as the natural quality of thunder is pure yang. If thunder still exists after the autumn equinox, it was believed this indicated an imbalance of yang and yin energy for the year, and the crops would suffer that season.

Living in Harmony With ‘Autumn Equinox’

There are several things you can do to live in harmony with the natural cycle during the solar term of Autumn Equinox.

When eating, avoid deep-fried and grilled food, as well as food that is cold or overly spicy.

Drink lukewarm or room-temperature water and avoid ice water or cold beverages.

Keep your back and belly covered, and avoid cold air, especially when the skin is damp from sweat. That includes cold air from an air conditioner.

This is a good time for gentle exercise, such as a walk in the early morning.

Any foods that taste sour, such as vinegar, kombucha, or yogurt, are particularly beneficial in these two weeks. They balance the heat in the liver and lungs, and tone the skin to reduce skin irritation.

Seasonal Foods to Eat

The following are good foods to eat during this solar term: sugar cane, honey, maple syrup, or foods naturally sweet in taste; pears, apples, grapes, mandarins, grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, buckthorn berries, raspberries, and cranberries; and sesame, walnuts, almond milk, and coconut milk.

Epoch Times contributor Moreen Liao is a descendant of four generations of traditional Chinese medicine doctors. She’s also a certified aromatherapist, former dean of an institute in Sydney, and the founder of Heritage Formulations, a complete solution for TCM professionals. Visit for details.

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